UNESCO Director-General and Dr Jill Biden discuss US community colleges as a model for expanding access to higher education in the developing world

UNESCO Director-General and Dr Jill Biden discuss US community colleges as a model for expanding access to higher education in the developing world
  • © UNESCO/M. Ravassard

On 5 July 2009, the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, met with Dr Jill Biden, educator and wife of US Vice-President Joe Biden, to explore new possibilities for cooperation in higher education.

Also attending the meeting were Dr Esther Brimmer, Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations, Ms Esther Coopersmith, former US Observer to UNESCO, and Mr Stephen Engelken, Chargé d’Affaires a.i. of the US to UNESCO.

Dr Biden was at UNESCO Headquarters to address the opening ceremony of the World Conference on Higher Education (see Flash Info N°130-2009*). In her remarks, she underscored the commitment of the US Government to education, highlighting the central place President Obama has given to higher education in the administration’s plans to revitalize the American economy. Dr Biden also spoke of her own experience as an educator and teacher in a US community college, explaining how this innovative model of higher education is helping to expand access to further learning opportunities among American students of all ages across the country. “Community colleges lead the way in preparing graduates in the fields of green technology, healthcare, teaching, and information technology “, Dr Biden said, championing the community college system as providing an education that is at once flexible, affordable and relevant to local needs. Dr Biden also pointed to how American community colleges could help meet the needs of developing countries, such as through the awarding of community college scholarships in fields that will advance economic development.

During his meeting with Dr Biden, Mr Matsuura applauded the emphasis the new administration was giving to education, both nationally and globally. “The US has placed education at the heart of its national stimulus effort; this is an example other countries should follow”, the Director-General affirmed. He also welcomed the US commitment to support other countries in strengthening their education systems, not only through increased aid but also by sharing US expertise and experience. “The community college model is an excellent example of how successful US domestic experience can be leveraged to benefit other countries, in particular those in the developing world”, Mr Matsuura stated, saying that UNESCO stood ready to collaborate with the US in looking at ways to appropriately adapt this model in other contexts. The Director-General also referred to his recent meeting in Washington with US Secretary for Education, Arne Duncan (see Flash Info N°125-2009**), and the possibility for scaling up cooperation in other areas such as developing open educational resources (OERs), tackling the problem of rogue education providers, and boosting developing country capacity in science and technology.

Mr Matsuura once again thanked Dr Biden for choosing the UNESCO World Conference for her first trip abroad. “Your participation in this Conference is an opportunity to showcase the leading US role in higher education globally; it is also an occasion to look at how we can use this excellence and creativity to bolster educational progress in poorer countries”, he said.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokesperson
  • Source:Flash Info N° 132-2009
  • 08-07-2009
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